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The MLB Strikeout Epidemic

Have the 2018 pitchers gotten so much better than their predecessors? Is this why they’re striking out batters at a record pace? Or is it the “launch angle” that is destroying the fabric of the game?

Back in the day a player like Dave Kingman would get destroyed for a season like he had back in 1982 while playing for the New York Mets. He had 37 home runs and 99 RBI. He had just 109 hits and 80 runs scored. His 156 strikeouts led the National League and his .204 batting average was laughed at.

I examined some of the Philadelphia Phillies hitters home runs to strikeouts. Here’s what I found:

Carlos Santana – 9/36

Scott Kingery – 2/50

Mikael Franco – 8/31

Rhys Hoskins – 6/61

Odubel Herrera – 7/44

Nick Williams – 7/36

Pitchers pitch fewer innings and now average more strikeouts per inning than previous years. Jacob deGrom, a top pitcher in the league and for the Mets had a career high of 10.7 last season. Now he’s at 12.2! The highest number Nolan Ryan ever had was 11.5. He struck out 270 batters that season. deGrom won’t get near that. He may hit 225, but he did miss some starts already.

Where do we go from here? What happened to making contact and moving runners along? There are good outs. A strikeout isn’t one of them except for the fact that it prevents you from hitting into a double play.

I think in the next season or two teams will have to sign free agents and when their numbers are less than desirable that’s when the shift back to making contact more often than not will come back into the game. I think this is a fad, something new that works for some players, but for most it’s killing their overall productivity.

Here’s a sampling of a few notable players hitting under .230:

Carlos Santana –  .221

Bryce Harper – .229

Jason Kipnis – .205

Gary Sanchez – .201

There’s more where that came from. Will teams pay big money to Bryce Harper if he hits .230? So far, he has 18-40 going. He’s on pace for 48-106, .229. Those are the Kingman-esque numbers I was talking about earlier. The only difference is Harper makes just shy of $22 million dollars a season. Kipnis is at $13.5 million, Santana makes $15 million. I’m not sure there are enough positive analytics that you can show to make teams forget about the obvious.

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